Why reread?

Posted March 14, 2016 by Nicky in General / 20 Comments

It probably surprises no one to know, if you’ve read my post on spoilers, that one of the reasons I like to reread books is because of that comforting sense you know what’s coming. I just got finished rereading A Natural History of Dragons, and of course I knew what happened — which took the edge off any impatience or tension, and actually means I’m going to be rating the book at least one star higher. It’s just the way I’m wired, I guess; I like to know, and then watch things unfold with that knowledge and put together, instead of the what, the how and sometimes the why.

(On the other hand, I just reread Winter Rose, and knowing how that ends didn’t help a bit with connecting the dots because there’s something about that book I just don’t get.)

As I said in the post on spoilers, it’s also a way of appreciating the skill of the author: even if you know what’s coming, can they keep you absorbed? Can they keep you following the thread of story round each step of the labyrinth, instead of taking a shortcut? Can they lay a trail of clues for the reader?

Of course, if you have a really great memory, then only the very best of books will stand up to that, or it has to be something else that draws you — the characters? the writing? the nostalgia?

There’s a whole lot of reasons why I reread, but nostalgia and comfort are a big part. I can get the same thing with books that follow a formula — like Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels or Mary Stewart’s suspenseful romances — because I sort of know what’s coming, and I can just settle into it, watching where it takes me.

What about you? Do you reread? Why/why not?

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20 responses to “Why reread?

  1. Not as much as I used to. I grew up re-reading because I lived abroad, which effectively rationed my book buying (even more than pocket money). I would deliberately get into big epic fantasy series because I’d have loads of books to work through (this also taught me patience, as I refused to by hardbacks, because pocket money). It’s only really since I got a Kindle that I’ve flipped into being a person with an enormous mountain of unread books; and I feel obliged to try and reduce the mountain, which has massively reduced my rereading.

    …which is a shame, because I love it. It’s partly nostalgia, it’s partly noticing new things and gaining a new appreciation for the author’s craft. I also take my time with rereads, rather than racing through to find out what happens. I’m trying to teach myself to read more closely first time around, but plot can be very distracting. Rereading The Fellowship of the Ring for the bizillionth time, I’ve only just noticed that Aragorn ‘makes’ Bilbo add in a reference to Earendil wearing a ‘green stone’ on his breast. So, I guess we know who owned the enormous emerald pendant that Galadriel gives him in Lorien, then? I do love little details, when I eventually catch them 😉
    imyril recently posted…March into Middle-Earth: Focus on the FellowshipMy Profile

    • I used to read and reread my favourites; I’m not entirely sure why, as I had library membership and my parents were certainly never stingy about books. I guess maybe just because I had more time!

      I loooove figuring out stuff like that, and also with Tolkien noticing influences from Norse/Anglo-Saxon that I’d never seen before when I read it for the first time after my degree. (Well, during my second degree, since I had a whole module on Tolkien!)

    • In A Natural History of Dragons, they are not clever talking dragons, I’m afraid… Clever predators, but.

      I kind of don’t get it when people aren’t, I have to admit.

    • Well, yeah, unless it’s for a class or something, same! Even if it’s not a five star read, though; even three star reads can have something worth going back to. Oh, and I sometimes try again with something I disliked if I think it was just a timing thing.

  2. I’ve been making an effort this year to do more rereads. A lot of times it amazes me how much I’ve forgotten about a book that I loved. I tend to reread a lot when I’m trying to finish a series, just so that I can make sure I remember all of the details. Plus, I love to go into a book knowing I’m going to love it… not just hoping. I’ve been doing at least 1 reread a month this year, and it has been great to fall back into some of my favorite worlds.

  3. I have a horrific memory. XD So re-reading is actually something I’m just discovering that I like! Mostly I’m of the opinion “why re-read when you can read something new of the endless books that clamour to be read?!!?” BUT. I’ve re-read two books this year (usually I re-read 0 haha) and I’m already addicted. <3 I like the vague sense of knowing what's going to happen (it's so not stressful!) AND I adore looking for the foreshadowing. And omg, with a brain like main? it's nearly like reading it for the first time anyway. xD

    • Ha, my partner’s like that too! And I was while I was on anxiety medication, too. I’m better at it now, but I read so much the new does push out the old…

  4. Rereading is something I would love to do, but sadly there never seems to be enough time, especially when my wandering eye is tempted by new books. Some day, I’d like to be in a place where rereading is a luxury I can enjoy 🙂

    • I knoooow, I’m sometimes torn by the shiny new books too. Unfortunately that’s led me to a habit of rebuying older books in another format (ebook, for ex) as a sort of… mental shortcut?!

  5. When I’m reading a book, I’m always deciding whether or not I’m emjoying it and whether or not I would reread it. If I know I won’t read it again, even if I liked it, I don’t keep it. I’ve been called a hoarder and so on but why should I get rid of books I bought because others don’t reread?!! I supply lots of books to charity shops and I trade some online to friends. Point is I spent my money on it and if I want to keep it and reread later, what’s wrong with that?

    When I hit a reading slump, I dig out Harry Potter or another book I love and read that and it usually kickstarts me out of the slump. I love a good comfort read and lifting these books again is like meeting an old friend!

    • I’ve regretted getting rid of books before, because I unexpectedly wanted to reread them. But mostly you know when you’ve got a keeper, right?

  6. I tend to re-read stuff I read so long ago that I can’t remember any of the subtleties, if I ever picked up on them in the first place! More recent fiction which I’ve reviewed I tend not to reread, simply because I gave it a thorough going-over when I opted to review it in depth.

    Having said that there are certain authors I’ve hung on to with every intention of re-reading sooner or later — Tolkien (obviously), Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones, Joan Aiken, Pullman, maybe even Philip Reeve. Hmm, I see most of these are fantasy, I clearly like vicarious living …
    Chris Lovegrove recently posted…Sugaring the pillMy Profile

  7. Just since I started blogging I’ve discovered a love of re-reading. I actually reviewed a book on Monday that was a re-read. 🙂 The best way to re-read for me…AUDIOBOOKS. I have a short commute that doesn’t lend itself well to books I have to return in a short time frame so checking out books I’ve already read usually don’t have a hold list at the library and I can keep renewing them. It’s been tons of fun to re-read in this fashion.
    Terri M. recently posted…I Believe I Have No Funny BoneMy Profile

  8. I reread quite a lot, either because I love the book so much I want to experience it again, I want the familiar story to comfort me (like you said, reading romances that follow a formula is similar to this, you can always be sure you’ll get your happily ever after at the end), or I’ve forgotten what the series was all about and I want to refresh my memory in order to continue with the sequels.

    I also HAVE to reread some books – the ones that I translate, otherwise I’d be a really poor translator. Some of them are wonderful and hold up nicely to multiple rereads but others are horrible from the start. But I love my job so I can’t complain! 🙂

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